The JSE started the week on a negative note, falling below 56,000 points for the first time in three weeks on Monday, amid concern that the local market could be heading for a full-blown bear market.

Emerging-market sentiment was fragile after Chinese GDP growth came in at 6.7% in the second quarter, from 6.8% in the first. Asian markets closed flat to weaker on the news, with their European counterparts trending lower at the JSE’s close. The Dow was flat at the same time.

A slightly firmer rand, at R13.20 to the dollar, failed to boost banks, financials and retailers ahead of the latest interest-rate decision by the Reserve Bank later in the week. Rates are expected to remain unchanged.

Mining stocks retreated on weaker commodity prices, as Brent crude tumbled 3% to $72.62 a barrel, its lowest level in more than two months, amid rumours that Russia might increase production.

International developments may result in the all share slipping into a bear market, Nedbank analysts Neels Heyneke and Mehul Daya said.

They said technical analysis showed that the all share ended a 50-year old bull trend in late 2016, and then failed to regain it through a rally in late 2017. "With the current tightening of financial conditions a correction can be expected again."

The resistance level of 54,867 points was crucial. If the market fell through that level, it could plunge all the way to 46,230, last seen at the beginning of 2014.

Local developments were also working against market sentiment. Stanlib retail investment director Paul Hansen said the positive hype of Ramaphoria in December and January was now something of the past. "Markets locally have been hurt by more and more evidence of the massive economic damage caused by nine years of debilitating rule under [Jacob] Zuma."

The all share closed 1.64% lower at 55,442 points and the top 40 lost 1.8%. Banks fell 2.27%, food and drug retailers 2.23%, general retailers 1.94%, industrials 1.74%, resources 1.71%, platinums 1.54%, the gold index 1.48%, financials 1.32% and property 1.3%.

BHP dropped 2.42% to R281.84 and Sasol 1.61% to R496.85.

Bidvest was 4.25% lower at R182.75 and Imperial Holdings lost 2.64% to R197.77.

Sibanye-Stillwater gained 2.17% to R7.53 after announcing it had received a $500m advance payment for future gold and palladium production from its US mines.

Anglo American Platinum rose 3.5% to R368.09. The group said earlier it expected a more than fourfold improvement in its interim headline earnings and a return to profit in its basic earnings, for the six months to end-June.

Impala Platinum plummeted 8.76% to R18.01.

Standard Bank dropped 2.42% to R188.98.

Steinhoff shed 5.45% to R2.95. The troubled retailer said it had extended a deadline in which creditors had to agree to a three-year debt standstill, by a day.

Nepi Rockcastle lost 2.08% to R118.30.

MTN dropped 2.17% to R104.37. The group said on Monday that it had sold its Cyprus business for about R4bn cash, to Monaco Telecom.

Naspers lost 2.12% to R3,301.42.